Year-end Wrap-ups Wrapping Up?

The print media performed its final (we hope) autopsy on the Christmas e-commerce season this week. While some sites died with the season, others continued to suffer from holiday hangovers brought on by too little revenue food and ostensibly drunken budgeting for ads.

The latest issue of Fortune recounted "The Nightmare Before Christmas," quoting Beavis-and-Buttheadesque message-board posts ("EToys SUCKS!!!") and unearthing amusing new Toysrus.com horror stories, like e-mail form letters cheerfully informing customers that orders they wanted cancelled were "in route to you!"

Beyond the anecdotal evidence, Fortune's Katrina Brooker reported that e-commerce stocks were way down as of press time. "It looks as if 2000 is going to be a rough year," she wrote.

Gourmet meal delivery service Cookexpress.com stopped operations just before Christmas but "may re-emerge - if investors go along." (Salon reported this week that Cookexpress needs $5 to $10 million, but its CEO has been meeting with potential investors and hopes to reopen this month). The next week, noted both Fortune and Business Week, electronics e-shop Value America laid off almost half its staff. Happy New Year! The body count will keep rising, predicted BW, with the most casualties occurring within toy and consumer electronics stores. Business Week writers Heather Green, Catherine Yang and Paul Judge viewed site traffic as a measure of success. By that yardstick, brick-and-mortar giants won the Christmas race. But that winner's circle would include the much-maligned Toys "R" Us, which casts some doubt on traffic reports' relevance. BW's point was that massive ad budgets won't make no-name Web stores household names overnight. At least one startup, Angeltips.com, recently pulled its ad from the Super Bowl. BW didn't mention that Angeltips is a service that matches entrepreneurs with investors - hardly the same sector as a toy store or even a food delivery service. But BW is probably right about all manner of dot-coms reevaluating their marketing strategies.

Not satisfied yet? We have one more Christmas postmortem on the way. The U.S. government was scheduled to announce December's retail sales figures on Thursday, but won't be taking stock of e-commerce until March, reported outlets such as the New York Times and USA Today. "[The Commerce Department] is, in fact, developing a means of tracking Web sales," wrote the Times' Bob Tedeschi, "but it is working on the issue at a pace that does not exactly call to mind the phrase 'Internet speed.'" Indeed.

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